Koen Holtkamp

Field Rituals

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What a sweet solo debut this is from Koen Holtkamp, one half of Mountains -- and a fitting addition to Type Recordings' catalog, one to put right beside Helios' Caesura. The "field" in Field Rituals is "the field," as in "being in the field," as in doing field recordings. Holtkamp's field recordings are delicate to start with (urban playground, a field at night, quiet rippling water), and delicately woven into the music, usually as a backdrop ("Night Swimmer"), occasionally as an integral part of the "score" ("Sky Flowers"). The music they underpin oscillates between drone and tune, ambient soundscapes and naïve pastorals, with plenty of acoustic guitar, melodica, and objects used as makeshift percussion. The closest comparison to Field Rituals would be the albums by Sweden's Tape (whose member Johan Berthling makes a guest appearance here, and that cannot be a coincidence). The album's pièce de résistance is "Sky Flowers," a gorgeous 15-minute track that begins in the playground and ends with a lulling harmonium (or is that a free-reed instrument?) droning away, and plenty of slow-burning bits of melodies developing in between. The other, shorter tracks are just as satisfying: the dreamy scapes of "Half Light" and "Walker," the subdued sweetness of "You Mean the World to Me," the non-assuming humming (by Scott Mou) in "Night Swimmer." There is nothing particularly original about Field Rituals, not after Tape has come along and fathered a slew of copycats, but Koen Holtkamp has a strong mastery of this dreamy kind of tuneful-meets-experimental ambient music, which makes it easy to recommend it. Just kill the lights, lay back, and float away.

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